Ping Pong for Solidarity
Stephine Corso

January, in the middle of a rainy Parisian winter, is not usually the best moment of the year for an outdoor ping pong tournament. However, a group of International School of Paris (ISP) middle school students organised one despite the weather. They convinced students and staff to participate in an epic ping pong battle, and to donate over 130 euros to families in need of food.

This act of solidarity was supported by Ernest, the non-profit responsible for transforming this monetary donation into a week’s worth of fresh produce for 14 families.  

Ernest – conviviality, solidarity, proximity, efficacy

Eating is fundamental and, according to the founders of Ernest, so is eating well. Sharing a well-prepared meal with family or friends is one of life’s most pleasurable experiences and one that should be accessible to everyone. This is why Ernest chooses to distribute baskets of fresh, local and organic produce to those in need. Ernest also organises cooking lessons so that recipients can learn how to transform unfamiliar produce (for example: turnips, parsnips or celery root) into delicious dishes.

The baskets are financed by a mechanism that ISP students described as “ingenious”. Ernest works with a network of Parisian restaurants whose owners all agree to contribute a portion of the price of a menu item to support Ernest’s efforts. These may be some of your favourite restaurants: Holybelly (brunch hot spot), Frenchie to Go (gourmet French fast food) or Paris New York 75010 (super burgers). Ernest makes an act of solidarity as easy as a night out at your favourite local participating restaurant!

And what if you don’t feel like going to just one restaurant, but 20? Each year, Ernest hosts a fundraiser where 20 of France’s best chefs cook for you. A 30 euro entry fee allows you to taste 5 different dishes and to enjoy an evening of music, comedy and celebrity appearances. In 2020 the event takes place on Monday, March 30th. You can contact Ernest via Facebook or Twitter to find out more and register. Bonus – this year’s chefs are all women!

Solidarity is not just helping others (nor just eating out!)

Ernest demonstrates that solidarity can be as easy and fun as an evening out in Paris. Marie Gerin-Jean, Ernest development manager and representative, reminded ISP students, during her visit to collect the ping pong tournament donation, that solidarity is also much more.

According to Marie, solidarity is “how we reflect on our shared lives, on the relationships we will construct with others.” Solidarity is often a synonym for helping others, but it can also be “…the small, daily gestures that allow us to connect to those that don’t have the same things as yourselves.”

Encouraging student-led acts of solidarity

Conviviality is key to encouraging student-led acts of solidarity. Recognise, as Ernest has, that conviviality is a shared human experience. Share this insight with students and then give them the freedom to execute sociable and fun service learning projects.

The success of the ISP ping pong tournament, which generated two weeks of excitement for an entire campus, is testimony to the student organisers' understanding of solidarity. 

  • ping pong
  • service learning
  • solidarity
  • student-led